PCCW arm deals Cable TV a new blow after English Premier League PCCW, the city's biggest telephone company, says its Now TV unit has bought the Hong Kong broadcast rights for Italy's top football league matches, stepping up its challenge to Hong Kong Cable Television. The new broadcast rights came after Now TV grabbed the exclusive rights to air English Premier League football matches from its larger rival and secured the rights for the European Championship tournament. The Italian league rights were not exclusive, however, as the distribution agent, Media Partners & Silva/Dentsu, also sold rights to Cable TV, a unit of Hong Kong-listed i-Cable Communications. Cable TV, which has the rights to air Italy's Serie A Championship matches live for the 2006-07 season, said it had the clearances to broadcast 250 live matches in each of the next three seasons. PCCW also said Now TV would have the rights to broadcast at least 150 live Serie A matches from a total of 380 for three years to the 2009-10 season. It did not disclose the amount paid. The television, broadband, IPTV (internet protocol television) and mobile-television rights covered most home games featuring major Italian teams such as AC Milan, Inter Milan and Roma, PCCW said. Now TV outbid Cable TV in November last year for the English Premier League broadcast rights which sources said cost about US$200 million. In December, PCCW dealt Cable TV another blow by securing an exclusive licence to broadcast the European Championship next year. Football matches are the most popular programmes for pay-television in Hong Kong and Now TV hopes to use them to boost subscription to overtake Cable TV. Now TV has about 700,000 subscribers against Cable TV's 770,000. Now TV said it offered its sports package with a 12-month contract at HK$178 a month for those who sign up before the end of April. The normal rate is HK$218 a month. Those who signed for an 18-month contract would get a five-month free subscription. Shares of PCCW closed up 0.22 per cent at HK$4.67 yesterday while those of i-Cable fell 2.2 per cent to HK$1.78.